Worldwide adaptations: Homes and buildings
People around the world are devising ways of making their homes and buildings more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Adaptations can range from traditional structures built to cope with increased flooding, to innovative engineering techniques aiming to withstand hurricanes.
Architects in the Netherlands have developed floating homes to combat flooding. The homes are built on foam slabs encased in concrete, allowing them to float upwards if water levels rise. They’re moored firmly in place so that they won’t float away. Floating buildings may be limited to homes at the moment, but in the future these Dutch architects hope to build floating towers, airports and even entire neighbourhoods. Traditional practices could also provide effective ways of coping with the increased risk of flooding from climate change. In the Gopalganj district of Bangladesh communities plant banana trees as flood protection. The leaves intercept rain, slowing its route to the ground and decreasing the risk of erosion and flooding.
Architects in America have developed homes built in a domed shape, such that the buildings’ geometry makes them stronger and more resistant to damage from the very high wind speeds accompanying hurricanes. This enables dome-shaped houses to stand up to winds that might topple other buildings. Scientists think storms and hurricanes may become more intense as a result of climate change, so these domed buildings could be a useful way of engineering our homes to cope with increased wind speeds. But some people won’t be able to afford their own custom-built homes and improved hurricane forecasting and evacuation procedures will also be important.
In some parts of the world, building houses on stilts is a common practice and might be a useful way of adapting to various impacts of climate change. In parts of southeast Asia there is a long tradition of constructing homes on stilts. When there are floods, water flows harmlessly underneath. This method could be applied in new areas subject to increased flood risk. Building on stilts also allows air to circulate beneath the structure, providing a natural cooling system for the building’s interior. Such ‘Queenslander’ houses are a common sight in parts of Australia and similar designs could prove useful around the world as temperatures rise.
Dr. Grant Wright is a Civil Engineer who investigates how flooding may impact the UK in the future. ‘By 2080, it is estimated that annual UK flood damage costs could rise to about £25 billion in the worst case scenario, and the number of people at a high risk from flooding could rise to 3.5 million’ says Grant. ‘By finding better ways to predict the various impacts of flooding we can begin to select suitable adaptation strategies to future flooding and bring those numbers down.’ Grant’s work takes on various forms – from running computer models and undertaking lab experiments, through to engaging the public at science festivals using interactive models.